Cisco Aims to Accelerate OTT-TV Support

Cisco Systems shed more light on the drivers behind its decision to acquire 1 Mainstream, believing that the deal the deal will enable it help service providers and new OTT partners more rapidly tie in support for a growing array of TV-connected devices.

Cisco’s multiscreen strategy initially focused around “companion devices” such as PCs, tablets and smartphones, but is hearing from both service provider customers and OTT and media players that they also want to launch, and launch rapidly, on devices that are connected to the primary screen, Conrad Clemson, the SVP and GM of Cisco’s Service Provider Video Software and Solutions Cloud Engineering Group, said.

“From our perspective, 1 Mainstream is far and away a market and a technology leader in this,”  he said, noting that the vendor will bring into the mix that are not currently supported by Cisco’s cloud-driven platform (by the way, Cisco confirmed that it has backed away from the “Videoscape” brand introduced in January 2011 at CES, going instead with an “Infinite” suite that includes support for managed networks and devices, and its cloud DVR and virtual video processing platforms). 

In addition to iOS and Android mobile devices, 1 Mainstream’s site lists out several TV-connected platforms it supports, including the Apple TV, Amazon  Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Roku, Chromecast  and Samsung smart TVs. Those on its roadmap include the Sony PlayStation 3 and PS4 and LG smart TVs.

Colin Dixon, analyst and co-founder of nScreenMedia, also believes that the deal makes sense for Cisco. While Cisco’s got the backend infrastructure to help partners nail up new services in the cloud and to manage them, they didn’t have “a simple way for anyone to launch a video service across multiple devices really quickly.”

And that’s where 1 Mainstream is coming in with a portal/template system that allows for customers to configure and roll out apps quickly on these platforms. The question moving forward, Dixon said, is how well this approach works with large-scale providers that want a more custom look, but acknowledged that 1 Mainstream’s work with Sky’s Now TV offering is in that tier 1 category.

Clemson said 1 Mainstream will also add to the mix expertise in OTT monetization, search, recommendations and data analytics, complementing  Cisco's work around content management and catalog display. The acquisition, he added, will also  help Cisco across the board with traditional service providers and enable it to “rapidly expand” to the white-hot OTT market.

He said all 22 employees of 1 Mainstream will join Cisco, including CEO Rajeev Raman, who will become director of cloud engineering on Clemson’s team and help to “drive our Infinite video roadmap forward.”

Raman, the former head of product at Roku, said 1 Mainstream has about 70 customers today and is on its way to breaking the 100 mark.

He said it made strategic sense to team up with  Cisco as the company looked to scale up faster and fulfill its needs to expand in areas such as marketing, channel partners and customer support.

He said OTT, like the name of his company, is rapidly becoming a mainstream initiative for broadcasters and operators. It’s now “part of their short-term, and medium-term and long-term business plans at the CEO levels of these companies,” he said.